Dear Family and Friends,
You know how someone comes into your life for a short time and has a profound effect on you? That is how we felt knowing Solomon Nour, headmaster of Hope Secondary School. He taught at the school for over 35 years, was headmaster for 15 years and was very highly respected in the community. We had met him for a few days in 1993 and 1999, when we were visiting with teams, but never spent quality time with him like we did this past summer. He loved the team and showed it in many ways—bringing us Israeli food to try, gifts, words of encouragement and hugs. He was with us every day and was a great help to the team, making sure we had all we needed for the project and personally. The morning we were packing up, we were surprised that we had not seen Solomon yet. He was usually with us first thing in the morning until late in the evening. Later that day we found out that Solomon had gone to be with the Lord in his sleep. We had our evening devotions the night before and he was able to stay and have the team sharing time with us. We shared what we learned this summer and how we had been blessed. Solomon’s name came up many times. He was able to thank the team (which he did often anyway) and praised them for their work. Each day, Solomon would make it a point to talk to at least one team member, get to know them and be sure they knew how much he appreciated what they were doing. One special thing that stood out was when we had a team birthday party to celebrate everyone’s birthdays. Solomon was with us and was so excited…it was the first birthday party he had ever had! He was 64 years old!
The rest of the day was a blurr as we packed up and met with people who came to the school to grieve and pay their respects. Even three of Solomon’s brothers dropped by at midnight, just before we left, during their time of shock and mourning, to be sure we were OK and were well taken care of. The Palestinian Christians are a very peaceful, giving people. Solomon was such a giving person and it was a blessing to have been part of his life for a short time. He will be greatly missed. Please pray for Hope Secondary School and Solomon’s family as they adjust to the change and they have many decisions to make regarding a new headmaster, finances, etc. He loved the students and the school, and devoted every part of his life to it.
We were equally blessed by the team! They were wonderful, caring team members and we really enjoyed being around them and ministering to them. We arrived at Hope Secondary School in Beit Jala, West Bank (only five miles from Bethlehem) on July 11. The school was started in 1962 by the Mennonite Community, mainly for orphans and disadvantaged children in the Bethlehem area. It is now run independently. We were greeted by Roxanne and her mother, Karen, with a meal of Palestinian chicken and rice. It was so good and a welcome supper after airplane food (which really wasn’t too bad)! Roxanne led a TMI team to the school many years ago and her and her mother assist the school and visit it when they can. They were such a great help to us in many ways. We appreciate all those at the school who helped make our stay exceptional; we made some very dear friends.
The team was definitely a hard-working team. They painted some classrooms, took down the old chain link fencing, repainted the poles, put up the new fencing and poured concrete at the bottom to keep people out. Nothing is thrown away— the old fencing was reused to strengthen the fence around the chicken coups in order to keep people and animals out. They have 4000 chickens there which helps finance the school. One of our other jobs was for the KP (one guy and one gal who helped in the kitchen each day) to spend an hour or two in the morning collecting up to 1400 eggs daily! This was a great help as there really was only one man doing it most of the time. While we were there, Solomon kept talking about the old cross they used to have over the school. He was disappointed that it had blown down in a storm a number of years ago, and always wanted one back up so people could see it as they passed by. So that was one of the last projects the team did. We found a strong tree (about 8” wide) and made a sturdy cross out of it. A concrete base was poured and the cross was set up. Solomon was so proud of that cross and the witness it would have to many. The majority of the people in the area are Muslims so this school is a light in the middle of a dark area. After a long, hot day of work, it was nice to have devotions on the roof where we were able to catch a cool breeze and see the magnificent sunsets. It was exciting to see the many projects that TMI has done over the years.
The school is located overlooking the Valley of Elah, where David fought Goliath. How exciting it was to have your devotions, imagining that the battle went on below you. We were able to see many of the biblical sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, including the Garden of Gethsemane, the Garden Tomb, Church of the Nativity, Shepherd’s Field, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Via Delarosa, the Wailing Wall (Western Wall), the Temple Mount, as well as the gold Dome of the Rock. We took a hike up the Mt. of Olives and saw a beautiful panoramic view of the Old City walls and gates, including the Golden Gate where Christ is to return. We also took a trip to Jericho and were able to float in the Dead Sea! The Bible really came alive to us this summer in new ways. Thank you to those who supported Darin to be able to come with us. He had a wonderful summer and really got close to the team. Thank you, Israel 11018 for a great summer. We continue to pray for you and know the Lord will use you and guide you.
Another exciting thing for us was to have family involved on teams this summer. Amy (Lynn’s wife) and Anna were in Mustard Seeds (ages 4-6), Micah and Darin were on a Peanut team (ages 6-9) and Abby went to South Africa on a Preteen team (ages 10-13). They all had a great time, after getting used to the Florida summer heat of Boot Camp! Darin enjoyed his team, building trusses for a walkway, but was homesick, with the family being so close! I enjoyed teaching cooking classes for the lady leaders during Boot Camp. It involved teaching them how to use the TMI stoves and ovens, keeping the team healthy, cooking for groups and how to cook with what is available! It was a lot of fun getting to know the lady leaders.
We had a few weeks off when we got back. Anthony went to PA to visit his family and do some deputation. He spoke in a number of churches including one of our team member’s church, who is also from Chambersburg. Justine’s dad also teaches skydiving. So guess what Anthony got off his “bucket list”? It was an exciting and breathtaking jump! I’m sure he will share it with you sometime if you ask him about it! He also spent a few days at the Tabernacle in Harrisburg doing some repairs after a few wind storms. Thank you to those of you who were able to go with him and help get things set up again. I stayed home and got some things done at the house as well as shuttled kids to doctor appointments and Darin to three football practices a week plus games!
We are now back to work—cleaning things up from the summer and getting ready for a new one! There are already over 100 registrations for teams for 2012. We have the teams set and the brochure printed and was able to give it out to the team members at the 2011 Debriefs. By getting the brochure out early, they are able to start their support raising now! Brandon and Jessie are both planning to go on teams next summer. Jessie is interested in the Around the World team and Brandon is looking at the Philippines. We are excited about their willingness to follow the Lord (Boot Camp and summer teams are not easy) and minister to others. We also appreciate you praying for the Overseas Boot Camps preparing to run over the next few months including Australia, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Congo, Honduras, and Brazil.
Thank you to all who contributed to the containers of clothes and shoes going to our bases in Malawi and Zambia. Most of the clothes are given out and we are preparing to send another container to Zambia. If you would like to be a part of that, please see the back of our newsletter.
What a blessing it is to serve here and we are so thankful for all of you who are a vital part of this ministry and our family being here. We look forward to an exciting year serving the Lord.
Blessings, Anthony, Shawna, Brandon, Jessica and Darin
You can see more pictures from our summer in Israel on Facebook.